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Monday, November 9, 2015

Single Malt Report: BenRiach 19 year old 1994 Peated Single Cask #7187 for K&L Wine Merchants

It's Benriach week at D4P!  And I'm starting it off by concluding my series on K&L exclusive whiskies.  In the past I've reviewed a number of items from the distillery's official range (and you can find those reviews here), this week I'm focusing entirely on their peated whiskies.  These Speyside peaters often make for very good alternatives to the usual Islay distilleries' malts.  They're different than the Ileachs' styles but usually of considerable quality.

Because I'm a big fan of the now-discontinued BenRiach Authenticas 21yo, I've often eyed K&L's exclusive semi-annual BenRiach peated single casks with some interest.  Last year, cask 7187 was originally priced at $150 which was way more than I'm willing to commit to a blind purchase.  But thankfully they dropped the price to $110 after it took a while for the bottles to move.  Even more thankfully, I found three suckers brilliant gentlemen to split the bottle with me: Florin, Jordan of Chemistry of the Cocktail, and MAO of My Annoying Opinions.  I think they all (or at least Florin and Jordan) dug into their portions long before I did.

As on Friday, we're doing a triple simultaneous review.  MAO and Jordan will be posting their reviews at the same time I'm posting this one.  Here's MAO's review and here's Jordan's review.

Distillery: BenRiach
Ownership: Benriach Distillery Company
Region: Speyside (Lossie)
Retailer: K&L only
Age: 19 years (????, 1997 - April 2014)
Maturation: former Bourbon barrel
Cask #s: 7187
Bottles: 236
Alcohol by Volume: 53%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? No

The color is quite dark, a brown gold, looking almost like a first fill sherry cask.  There's plenty of nose to spare here.  Stone fruit, vanilla, and a mossy peat.  And lumber.  Furniture polish.  After some air, the peatiness goes a little Laphroaig-ish with band-aids and iodine.  Then there's molasses and maybe some pine sap.  A bourbon-like rock candy note too.  On the palate it's all cocoa, black pepper, peat, and heat for a while.  Gradually the band-aid note eases in.  Then it becomes a little winey, like a super dry red.  Tart and bitter.  Tart berries.  Lots of peppery bite.  Overall it feels a bit closed and tight.  The finish is brighter than the palate.  It's long and very peppery.  Seaweed and ocean.  A sprinkle of sugar.

Will water open it up...?

WITH WATER (~46%abv)
Ah ha!  Here comes the elephant manure in the nose.  Always a plus for me.  Then codeine cough syrup meets Children's Cherry Sudafed.  Tree bark.  Leafy but also sugary.  Not much new happening in the palate.  Still a sharp bite.  Rocks and bitter oak.  Slight floralness (florality?).  Earthier peat.  The drying finish is all peat, oak, and black pepper.

A little more water...

WITH WATER (~40%abv)
The nose does get more aromatic.  More medicine.  Some orange peel.  The palate mellows out.  But it is sweeter with milder spices and more vanilla.  But the finish has shortened considerably.  Mostly black pepper.

Much like the Faultline Blend, this whisky benefits from added water.  While I like "sharp" austere whiskies, this one's palate's edge feels driven by oak rather than the spirit, when neat.  Though I recommend not being shy with the water in order to perk up the palate, one may also find that this hydration kills the finish.  But whether neat or diluted, the nose is always the best part.  Had the palate matched the nose then this would have been a heck of a whisky, and I would have purchased a bottle of my own.  But it doesn't so I didn't.

I think the quirk is in the oak.  While it works in the nose, complimenting the spirit, it has taken over the palate/finish.  Perhaps this will work for some fans of woody barrel strength bourbons.  This cask did wind up selling out within the last week or two -- which is bummer because I'd hoped to review more available selections -- but if you missed out there's little reason to mourn the loss for long.  There are more peated BenRiachs out there...

Availability - recently sold out
Pricing - $110-$150
Rating - 80